Premature Contract Resigning

Reports have been coming into the ISR office for weeks that some international schools have already been pressuring teachers to commit to contract renewals for the 2011-12 academic year. Not too many years ago it was the trend for schools to wait until after the winter holidays before asking teachers to declare their intentions to stay for another year.

Why are some schools now pushing the commitment date to earlier & earlier in the school year? A few schools have even announced a substantial financial penalty or threatened to blackball teachers who indicate they will renew their contract but later change their plans.

Why so early? What reason could schools have to expect such an early commitment date for contract renewal?

25 thoughts on “Premature Contract Resigning

  1. Our school handed out the renewal papers in mid October but you could still reply “undecided” until the beginning of November.

    After a first year of unfulfilled expectations (courseloads modified, responsibilities changed, etc) and the school’s plans for the next year still cloudy, we tried to discuss the issues directly related with the factors that would make our decision about renewal. With the current year barely commenced, the school couldn’t possibly make projections regarding the next year. We had no choice but to decline renewal even though it is quite possible that things will improve with restructuring of the departments for next year.

    I also agree with the added difficulties with children. It is often difficult for the first year since middle class teachers’ children can have difficulty fitting in with rich local kids and diplobrats. This often changes in the second year but by the time your children start bonding you’ve already made the decision to leave and there’s often no going back.


  2. I am South America as well, and our deadline was the third week in October. However, timing is everything with those who are on the fence whether to leave or not. (It was a ‘bad week’ for various reasons, and certain circumstances pushed people to leave.) However, any school that just thrusts a contract into teachers’ hands and wants a signature is showing how little they care if one signs or not. A good school will have some sort of discussion scheduled with the director before people re-sign. In some ways, it does not matter how early or late the re-signing date is, but the circumstances around the process and how appreciated the teacher feels as a result.

    I also agree with Eric – it is somewhat easier for singles to decide rather than those of us with kids. Our contract re-signing was handled badly and we did not want to stay, but we had to look at our children (who we would be uprooting for the third time) and the money (we save around US$40,000 per year with 2 salaries).


  3. In my current school, last June, two teachers gave their notice (one on the last day of school). Low and behold, what do we see in our mailboxes in the middle of October? You guessed it; contract renewal requests. I don’t blame administrators for seeking earlier confirmation. What my current school is missing out on, however, is why there is such high staff turnover in the first place. So,rather than simply seeking to replace those who choose to leave in such an untimely way, perhaps some administrators might want to consider how to keep good staff happy (and yes, I do recognize that some teachers will never be happy,…).


  4. For myself, if I’ve been at a school over a year, then I know what I’m into as early as October. But I do question if a newly hired instructor is able to make a decision with only a week or two of classes under his/her belt. I see the admin reason but I think for a newbie in the school it is cause for a problem.


  5. Loud applause to Mike! The negativity shown by teachers’ is almost comical. I’ve been a teacher for over 10 years and I’ve taught in several countries/continents. No school/administrator will be or will do everything you want!! Of course it’s important to hold schools accountable for breaching contracts, but we as teachers must do our best to educate and inspire those precious minds in our classroom, then we can enjoy the travel opportunities and explore the world !!


  6. I believe the reason the renew dates have moved up is because the Bangkok fair has become a fair where school are actually hiring people. The schools want to get as many positions filled as soon as possible so they have more time to get them all filled by February/March. This is a business decision and nothing more. As you can see when an admin person plans to leave they declare it before or very soon after starting the next school year. This may or may not create some dead weight Admin because they will probably already have a job by the end of the first quarter so they may not work as hard. The past 5 years it started to become a “teachers market” but the schools are fighting back by forcing teachers to make the decision earlier. As a single I can understand that this matters little to someone but as a married couple with children you have to take into account many more people’s feelings and interests when making this decision. These early dates force families to make decisions early in the year. Kids may have disliked school last year but come December made some good friends and now love it. By this time you’ve already committed to leaving and now you have disharmony in the family. So Single easy, Married and family difficult.


  7. From an administrative standpoint it is costly to replace an existing teacher. In many cases its cheaper to keep him or her. It depends largely on where you are though and the costs of visa procurements, shipping (for outgoing and incoming), dependents etc.From a teachers perspective October is early for some and not early enough for others. If you are considering returning but havent quite made up your mind then October would be early and if you are definitely wanting to leave then October cant come quick enough.For many schools in the Int’l sector,getting good, qualified teachers isnt easy so trying to figure out staffing needs early is unfortunately a necessity.


  8. Currently, I am in my first year at a school in South America (Colombia). Just this past week, the school director sent out an email asking us to state our intentions. Like a Zeno states, the AASSA fair is in December, which my director is attending. I do not feel like the request is early or unreasonable. It was done respectfully and professionally.

    Truly, I think the recruiting fairs are to blame for the early requests. They are asking and demanding information on vacant positions, and are held, for the most part, in December, January, and February. This article and many of the responses seem to place blame on the schools, which is unfortunate because I don’t think that is always the case.

    When I worked in the states, my school district required that any absence longer than one day had to be approved by the principal. According to district policy, I could not use my banked days for a job search. When I attended the recruiting fair, my principal excused my absence, but I did not receive compensation for the two days of work I missed. Similar policies in other districts are not uncommon throughout the state which I lived. Why should international schools be any different? If it is such inconvenience for you, do your homework before committing to a contract. I asked my director in my interview what their staff absence policy was. I found out before I committed. Problem solved.

    It is just so unfortunate how teachers who not only get a chance to see the world and travel, and do it while teaching, try to criminalize so many schools on this website. Stop complaining you are able to go amazing places while working in an amazing profession! I would like to see the positives and the negatives mentioned. Or perhaps a more objective view. I know if I were new to international teaching and read some of the discussions on this site, I would be scared and hesitant to go into it.

    If you are one of those people who are new or considering transitioning to international teaching, take things you read here with a grain of salt. Is the website helpful? Yes. But do your research, ask questions during your interview, write teachers who are currently at the school, and be true to yourself when deciding where to go. Most importantly, international teaching, whether you sign with a “good” school, a “bad” school, or a “great” school, can and will be the best experience of your life. You will grow and become a better teacher. Embrace your experience with an open mind, and you will never regret it!


    1. There is also something else that happens Stateside. We do not have to pay thousand of dollars to go to a recruitment fair like international teachers do. I have worked in several districts and the most I have had to spend is no more than 3/4 of a tank of gas–no job fairs, no hotel bills, no plane fares, etc. Also many of the international schools are paying far less in this economy but most schools in the States have not lowered their salary schedules.


    2. You do not have to pay thousands of dollars to attend a recruitment fair. Many teachers at my school in Colombia do not attend a recruitment fair when they decide to leave. They use networking and administrator contacts to obtain a new position. They write emails, send out their resume, make phone calls, and do the same thing that individuals do in the states to obtain a job.

      Most schools in the states have not lowered their salary schedules? Are you serious? Have you not kept up on the news? Many states have drastically cut the budgets they provide to K-12 education, and as a result many school districts have had to reduce their base pay or freeze the salary schedule. Not to mention mass lay-offs or reduction to part-time status. In addition, if you have a master’s degree, some districts will not look at you when hiring because they have to pay more for an educator with a master’s degree. Look at the recent history in Arizona, California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, etc.


    3. I left the international school system because of the low pay and poor treatment. Financially, 10 years internationally was a massive blow to my finances and so if you are looking to save lots of money, this would not be a route of recommendation. It is however, a route of adventure!

      American teachers have it pretty hard stateside but it will be pretty hard for international schools to keep Australian and Canadian teachers on board for the long term due to the pretty good financial packages offered in Canada and Australia to teachers.

      In my system, we have six figure teachers and if you teach in a country school, 100% housing and utilities paid, plus pension. That is hard to beat.


  9. Personally as someone who is finishing up a 2 year contract at a less than great school, with a low salary, in a 3rd world country (all things that were de-emphasised during my interview 2 years ago), the fact that jobs are being advertised early is fantastic. If possible I’d prefer to not have to spend the next 6 months on job applications.


  10. What the article doesn’t add (this is ISR after all–why mention anything positive that schools do?) is that many schools also pay bonuses for giving early notice. My school pays $300 if you give notice by Oct 30. I know ISKL pays 1’000 for similar notice,as do many others

    Yes, it’s an annoying trend, but in all fairness early hiring practices among schools do make it more and more necessary. And good schools try to make it less painful with monetary rewards. Come on, ISR. Give the FULL story.


    1. Firstly, ISR is a site that provides a forum for international teachers to share their experiences. It almost provides transparency to teachers that schools often don’t. Sure some people vent… but many people stay calm and give an honest opinion. You can’t go blame ISR for not doing anything positive, ISR provides a service. If you don’t like it, don’t read it – stay away.

      Secondly, thank you for the positive information you shared Trav45, I never knew that there were schools out there that would pay you to leave. Sounds too good to be true.


    2. My comment about ISR’s negative bias didn’t refer to school reviews, those are what they are and to a degree out of ISR”s control. But the blog posts (and this one is an example) have a running theme of international schools being out to put one over on their teachers.

      There are schools that do that; I’ve even worked at one, but the implication prevalent in the articles on this site is that all schools run this way is simply false, and I have called them to task on that since the early days of this site, and will continue to do so.

      Finally, the schools aren’t paying teachers to leave, they’re paying for the consideration of early notice.


    3. I agree with Trav45.And I have never worked for a school that did not give recruitment leave. It is usually mentioned in the list of benefits. I don’t think it is the norm to give a bonus, but it is certainly a nice gesture. Early decision making is not something to protest about or find drama in. The reason people can be looking for jobs NOW, in November, is because schools have asked teachers to make a decision about leaving/staying. Honestly, what’s the difference b/t having to commit now or having to commit in 6 weeks??? It is never going to be at the end of a school year.
      As a final note–people have a responsibility to do their homework and ask important questions during the job interview. Walk away if it doesn’t “sit” right. Don’t sign any contracts until you have read them carefully. I really don’t think it is an “us” against “them” situation.


    4. I have worked for schools that paid recruitment leave, schools that didn’t, but let you attend unpaid, and schools that asked you to resign before attending a fair. These same schools rehired (or didn’t)staff members that had resigned and didn’t find a job(?). I have been asked by different schools to give notice by the end of first quarter, or December or January. Some administrators have expressed regret, other surprise, and yet others, anger…(no more perks that year!) I have never heard of $$$ given for early notice, but hey!, it’s a diffent world out there.
      I have worked for schools that I loved but still have been shorted money, been worked over by the business office, and had my teaching assignment changed 3 times by the time I arrived at the school! I crack up at some reviews because I know something similar happened to me or a friend of mine…Don’t discount reviews just because they were written in absolute frustration! Truth is certainly stranger than any scene you might imagine! Cheers!


  11. I work at a very good and well-known international school in Eastern Europe and was surprised to learn this year that teachers would be asked to state whether they were planning on returning for the following year by the end of the first quarter (end of October). This is earlier than last year and much earlier than many other schools in the area. When asked about why the notification date was so early the administration replied that it really wasn’t that early and that many schools in South America even have earlier dates. (I’ve also worked in South America and I think this comment was an exaggeration.) At any rate, all of the faculty has already had to notify the administration about their intentions for next year and people who are staying have already signed contracts. I think it is very early, but it does allow the people who do the hiring to get an early lead in the “hiring game, ” though I don’t think my school would have any trouble attracting interested candidates at any time of the year.


    1. I now work in a school in South America — in southern Brazil — and as a matter of policy, teachers need to commit by the second week of November. The rationale from the administration is that they need to attend the AASSA recruitment fair in the beginning of December. Whatever the case, it feels like bullying.


  12. It hasn’t happened at our school ( and I really hope it doesn’t!) but I know that our school had a difficult time filling all of our vacancies this year.Maybe it’s a situation of trying to make sure they are able to fill classrooms. Whatever it is, it certainly is outrageous.


  13. The competition for skilled,experienced teachers, especially in the IB/AP programs offered by most international schools, as well as the increasing number of new international schools and English-medium schools has spooked many less than functional institutions and their directors/boards to try and ¨lock-in¨ their good staff or even their marginal ones. Competition for top teachers is intense and because these schools often have high turnover (most teachers have a 2 year cycle)due to their less than auspicious treatment of staff, they try and bully staff into earlier commitments than is normal. I’ll also bet that they try and prevent staff from going to Fairs or seeking other jobs by refusing them time off and threatening bad references or n one at all. what is the next step…imprisoning staff in cells like zoos do to their prize exhibits? Many parents send their kids to a so-called English medium, international school because there are good native language speakers working there and they complain as well because good teachers often leave at the end of their contract or before, requiring the school to find 3rd class replacements. As well this turnover hurts the kids and the quality of teaching in general so parents are upset at the school…they don’t understand the 2 year cycle at all and less the schools attitude towards ensuring staff stay.


    1. Yes – Nagoya International School does not pay teachers while they are attending a recruitment fair to secure their next contract unless they have been employed for three years. In other words, if you are on a two year contract and want to find your next contract, then you will not get paid. Meanwhile, the school will be at the fair recruiting. Have to do three years before you can get time off to go to job fair. (in other words, sign another year)

      Another school, Noblesse International School refuses to pay for your vacation pay if you do not renew your contract. If you decided that you only want to complete your contract, then they will only pay you for 10 months, not 12 months during that year.

      In both cases mentioned above, The “resigning bonus” is actually avoidance of a penalty for not staying on.


    2. Another school that only pays you 10 months of your 12 months contract is ACS International Schools in U.K. When you first arrive they do not pay salary until the first day of school although of course they would expect you to arrive early to prepare. When you end your contract you are paid until the final day of the school term with nothing extra to carry you over to the next year. When I was in UK they also had a bonus system for good teachers with bonuses paid at the start of the next academic year rather than the end of the one in which you got a good appraisal. Something else to miss if you choose to leave. My present school has been enquiring about my intention since September and requires a firm decision in the next two weeks.


    3. My understanding is that if a school if part of the CIS then they are required under the guidelines to give you the time off to attend the recruiting fairs as long as you are not breaking contract. Not sure about this one but I thought I would post that


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